Raider Water Polo focused and ready
By Erik Markus
La Habra Journal
After two years of development, the Sonora Boys Water Polo program is beginning to take shape.
Two years ago Jim Sprague took over the program. One of his first changes was implementing morning practice.
“We had two and three kids per morning workout. Seven of the seniors said they were not coming, so they played JV,” head coach Jim Sprague said.
Their first season didn’t come easily, they lost nine of 10 games in league that season, but it created an atmosphere designed for winning based on effort and hard work.
The next season they finished tied for second in league.
Two years later, that hard work is beginning to take shape.
Last season the Raiders season came down to a three way tie for second with Troy and La Habra.
To settle the tie, they played Troy first, then the loser would play La Habra.
“We really came into our own after our first playoff game,” head coach Jim Sprague said.
Sonora lost the first game against Troy, then 20 minutes later started a game against La Habra.
“I think it was only the greatest coaching pep talks I’ve ever given, I came up and told them they weren’t tired, they’re only rested,” Sprague said, joking.
The Raiders went on to control the game, beating La Habra by double digits.
Sprague has focused his attention on putting players in the best possible position to be successful. Combined with all the time the players are putting in is leading to their quick development.
One unique thing Sprague did was recruit a handful of baseball players to play for their team.
“We got a couple of the baseball players who were freshman to come and lift weights and spend a little bit of time here, and after baseball season, they dropped baseball,” Sprague said, “they’re two of our best players.”
As the program continues to grow, Sprague makes a point of pushing his players to be involved in sports.
“I’d never work in a program where I didn’t ask my kids to swim,” Sprague said.
He made an exception for players who were involved in other activities and sports.
“If you’re going to sit at home while the rest of your teammates are working, then you’re not really part of the team,” Sprague said.
The Raiders this season will be led by Juniors, Conrad Napier and Ben Angulo.Ben is moving from the goal in order to help them in other spots, and moving into the goal is an athletic sophomore, Kyle Boland who’s learning the position.
“Most people feel that 90 percent of a goalie’s job or almost 100 percent of a goalie’s job is blocking the ball. I feel that 40 percent of his job is blocking the ball, 30percent of his job is to run the offense , and 30 percent is to run the defense,” Sprague said.
The Raiders biggest issue this season will be learning how to play against good teams.
The Raiders have used film sessions in order to watch their games and practices and learn from the mistakes made.
“What I had them watch were the first three plays of a 35 minute scrimmage. It took two minutes, but there were enough mistakes made there,” Sprague said.
As the team continues to learn and develop, the program is growing in depth and knowledge.
The Raiders Boys’ water polo team now has more than 50 players enrolled in the program. Of those 50, all of the young players are routinely showing up to morning practice.
“They’re all learning that, gee, I’m supposed to be there,” Sprague said.
This change in attitude and experience give him confidence that their trajectory for success will only continue with time and practice.
“I guarantee you, there’s not a team around here who’s frosh/soph kids are getting two and a half hours of work a day,” Sprague said.
Sprague’s focus remains on the development of all his players and sees all this as learning experiences for life.
“You want good grades? Then you work for them, if you don’t work for them, then don’t expect them. You’re going to get what you put into it,”
That attitude and approach is what allows somone to take a one win team and turn them into a contender. With Sonora’s top players only Juniors, they are poised for success, as long as they continue to be disciplined.
The Raiders’ season begins on September 8, with a srimmage against Buena Park and Brea. Freeway League games will begin later that month on the 30th with Sonora hosting La Habra played at Fullerton High School.
Raider Water Polo Schedule
9/8 Brea – Buena Park Scrimmage 3:15
9/10-12 Ayala Tournament
9/17 Valencia 3:15
9/18-19 Los Alamitos Tournament
9/21 Don Lugo
9/25-26 Bull Run Tournament
9/30 La Habra @Fullerton
10/7 @ La Habra
10/21 Sunny Hills
10/28 @Buena Park
11/2-4 Freeway League Tournament